Dispatches From The Couch: AMERICAN HORROR STORY, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, SLEEPY HOLLOW & More!

Now that we’re a few weeks into the fall season and that first blush of new love one feels toward shows has faded, we begin to see which ones have what it takes to keep our attention over the long haul. What shows — new and old — have we been watching? Read on to find out… and then hit the comments to tell us which shows have you buzzing!

This may be the most difficult sentence I’ve had to write in a while, so I’m just gonna say it: The premiere of AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN disappointed me. Having absolutely loved ASYLUM, being a big fan of witches and thanks to the killer ad campaign, COVEN was without doubt the show I was most looking forward to. But the first episode was… let’s be kind and go with schizophrenic. Now, to be fair, so was ASYLUM, which featured everything from mad scientists to aliens. And it’s worth noting that some of the shots in the gorgeously directed COVEN were stunning. But many elements fell flat for me, including the performances of Emma Roberts (as bitchy teen movie queen Madison) and Gabourey Sidibe (as self-proclaimed voodoo doll Queenie). It’s always fun to see what AHS does with the incredibly talented Frances Conroy, who this season plays the flamboyant Myrtle Snow. As much fun as it was to watch Jessica Lange play wickedly bitchy Fiona, it’s not like we haven’t seen her play this exact same role a thousand times. Make no mistake: As a fan of both the genre and the series, I’ll be back. But I wasn’t left eagerly anticipating the next episode the way I was with ASYLUM.
 
I will not lie: I went into WITCHES OF EAST END with pretty low expectations. And for the first 10 minutes or so, the new Lifetime series lived down to them. But something funny happened over the next half hour or so: The show became increasingly entertaining. I always wanted CHARMED — another show about witchy sisters — to be sudsier instead of focusing so heavily on self-contained plots. WITCHES definitely seems headed in that direction. Better still, it has a sense of fun that really sneaks up on you. The special effects are downright dazzling at times, and Madchen Amick steals every single scene she’s in. Thanks to this show and AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN, it is most definitely the season of the witch! And as a lover of Halloween, it’s kinda cool having so many spookfests on the air during this haunted season!
 
BETRAYAL, which I expect may be gone by the time you finish reading this paragraph, pisses me off. Why? Because I don’t get how a network that does primetime sudsers so well — think SCANDAL, REVENGE, GREY’S ANATOMY — got it so wrong with this one. How did someone look at that pilot and think that it was good… or even made sense? My biggest issue with it is the couple we’re supposed to root for. As I explained to my best friend this morning, the woman appears to be cheating on her husband because he works hard and doesn’t like her taste in ties. Stuart Townsend’s character is, by all accounts, in a pretty decent marriage. (Although really, what kind of wife sends the kids upstairs to get ready to leave, warns them to hurry, and then proceeds to give her husband a hummer right there on the living room couch!) So in essence, these who aren’t seeking comfort in the arms of others because they are misunderstood or abused or even neglected. They’re just assholes who are cheating on their spouses! Not exactly the kind of root-for couple you want your soap — primetime or daytime — to have at its center!
 
I worry about SLEEPY HOLLOW. It’s a fun show with a great cast, but it’s diving a little too quickly into what is shaping up to be a rather complex mythology. Now, I’m all about complicated, layered shows, but I also know that they can be a turn-off for new viewers who haven’t seen the show from the beginning. I’ll never forget when my beloved FARSCAPE — sob! — got the axe, in part because some felt that it had become too densely plotted for folks to dive in. So here’s hoping the same fate doesn’t befall HOLLOW.

Speaking of dense mythologies, I watched the season premiere of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES and… sweet baby Jesus on a cracker, was I lost! This is a show I watched the first couple years, and then drifted away from. Ads for the new season left me remembering how much I’d enjoyed the antics of the Salvatore brothers, so I checked back in. You know that little pre-show spiel they do explaining the set-up of the show? Even that left me baffled. I did, however, stay with it and, despite not really getting the whole Silas/Shadow Stefan thing, enjoying myself. Largely because it was kinda fun to watch Katherine struggle with life as a human. (Apparently, being immortal means never having to brush your hair, because as a human, Katherine’s is a hot mess!)

This week’s episode-capping tribal council represented everything that is awesome about SURVIVOR. Not only was it a major blindside, but it wasn’t even planned beforehand. In a majorly unexpected move, Colton went from the most vulnerable player on his tribe to the most powerful without really even trying! Some say that the reality series, now in its 27th cycle, is getting long in the tooth. I couldn’t disagree more. Between the unpredictable nature of human relations and this season’s fantastic twist of putting loved ones not only in the mix but turning them into competitors, the franchise has practically reinvented itself.
 
I can’t say I’m surprised that the numbers are continuing to drop for ABC’s AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., which just aired its third episode. While Joss Whedon is to geeks what Ted Cruz is to conservatives, the comparison doesn’t really stop there. Both are, in many respects, limited in their reach. Ask your mom or dad who Joss Whedon is, and odds are they don’t know. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, his biggest TV success, was not a hit by major network standards. That show also, not surprisingly, had a much stronger base of female viewers. Don’t get me wrong: The ratings for S.H.I.E.L.D. aren’t bad. They’re just not what I think a whole lotta people hoped they would be going in. It helps the show’s chances of surviving that it is an ABC Studios production, but it’ll be interesting to see where the ratings eventually settle and how ABC will react.
 
I absolutely hate myself for watching THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY, let alone tuning in for the reunion. But I’m intrigued by these bizarre creatures. Theresa, in explaining that she and creepy hubby Joe have “lots of gay friends” talked about one particular couple. “I hang out with the girl, and Joe hangs out with the guy,” she went on to explain. Needless to say, openly gay host Andy Cohen’s face comically contorted as, like the rest of us, he wondered if perhaps Theresa was unclear on what comprises a same-sex couple. I’d say the level of intelligence on display is incredibly sad, but hey, I’m the one who tuned in to watch these morons… who actually got paid for their time, unlike me.

So what are you watching this week? Hit the comments and let us know!

  • Jeff Probst

    It was Caleb, not Colton on Survivor.

  • Jeff Probst

    It was Caleb, not Colton on Survivor.